Making Room in Your Bubble.

Hi guys.

The most popular post on AGlanceThisWay is about setting boundaries and recovering from people pleasing. I wrote these posts over three years ago and yet every week someone on the internet reads these posts because they are searching for answers to help them set boundaries and recover from people pleasing. When I initially wrote these posts I felt like I was the only person who was dealing with this obstacle. I felt like I was drowning in my people pleasing habits and that was really discouraging. I have since discovered that I was not alone and that recovery was possible.I learned that other people were seeking answers and searching for solutions. Last year I was communicating with a blogging mentor and they encouraged me to build on this topic because of my passion and experience. They encouraged me to tell my story and put my journey and recovery out there. I decided to take those posts, add more resources and expand it all into a book. I did this because I figured that if the articles on this blog were helpful then maybe a book that contains more information and more tips and strategies that could be accessed by a wider population might do even more good.  This is the first chapter from the book Making Room in Your Bubble: Setting Healthy Boundaries and Recovering from People Pleasing. I hope that you enjoy it and I hope that you find it helpful. If you would like to read the entire book you can find it here as a Kindle Ebook.

Chapter 1
Introduction
There are over 7.125 billion people on the planet and each of us has
a bubble! This is otherwise known as our “personal space”. The
bubble is the area surrounding a person that they have determined is
psychologically theirs. The bubble is imaginary but it is also grounded
in a psychological need to assess danger and mitigate risk in our
physical environment. Our personal space is separated into four
bubbles:
1. Intimate Bubble: Touching, embracing and whispering
2. Personal Bubble: Our good friends and family
3. Social Bubble: Interactions among acquaintances
4. Public Bubble: General Population
These four areas make up how we categorize and then maintain
physical space between ourselves and others in our outside world.
The amygdala part of the brain is what processes strong reactions to
violations of space. Therefore if someone who is firmly in the Public
Bubble attempts to enter your Intimate Bubble uninvited this violation
of boundaries would register in your amygdala and produce a
reaction. In short, “We like our bubble the way it is and don’t
appreciate uninvited changes!” As members of social groups and
families our intimate bubble and our personal bubble are filled with
people that we love and care for. These people are our spouses,
children, parents, friends and loved ones. These are the people who
“get us” and know us intimately. They are in our Inner Circle Bubble
and they are the people that we care about and take care of. These
are also the folks that have the greatest and most frequent
opportunity to violate our most sacred boundaries. This can be
difficult because we want the people in our bubble to be happy
however sometimes their happiness is at our own expense. This can
slowly create a space where personal boundaries are scarce and
people pleasing has taken over. In Making Room in Your Bubble:
Setting Healthy Boundaries and Recovering From People Pleasing
you will give yourself permission to put you back inside your bubble.
Once upon a time I was the biggest people pleaser on the planet.
Well, that statement probably isn’t grounded in facts but it sure felt
that way. I was moving along through life making sure that the people
in my bubble were OK. I was married with kids and my entire life had
become consumed with other people’s needs and desires. I was
trying to keep people happy and in the mean while I felt that I was lost
and drowning. It was so bad, if asked; I honestly couldn’t give my
opinion if I thought it was in opposition to another person’s opinion. It
felt like I was living in a tiny fish bowl with nothing to do but swim
around and around in tiny circles. I had so much anxiety and guilt that
I wasn’t able to really function in life. I really wanted to blame other
people for my conditions. I felt that I had to work for other people’s
love and acceptance. I felt that if I didn’t get the love and acceptance
that I was working for then I wasn’t “good enough”. I felt that I had
been victimized.
The result of this kind of thinking is feeling that you have no choice.
It’s the thought “Everyone else can choose but I can’t”. The truth is
that I always had a choice. Even when it seemed that I didn’t, the
choice was still mine to make. Oh, how I struggled to live in this
concept. I constantly went back and forth between guilt and
exhaustion. How dare I feel that I want something that benefits only
me!
Have you ever felt that way? Have you ever wondered when it would
be your turn? When are you going to be able to breathe (all the while
knowing that the guilt of being focused on only you would be
unbearable)? The kids need things, your spouse need things, the job
needs things, your mother needs things, your in-laws needs things,
the dog needs things…all day it goes around and around until you fall
into bed exhausted and anxious. When you wake up it all begins
again. Before you can open your eyes and get your feet flat onto the
floor someone, somewhere, needs something. The constant influx of
demand is sort of unavoidable in today’s culture. We can’t stop
people from asking us for things. We can’t stop text messages from
showing up uninvited as they interrupt and intrude on whatever else it
going on. Emails download to our tablets as they come into our
inboxes. I think, at this very moment I have eleven email addresses
dumping into my “All Inbox” in my iPhone. Folk need things and
people want things and dogs must have…stuff. It’s “stuff” all day long
and into the night! To me, this is part of what it means to be an Urban
Mom. Our space is densely populated with tons of other people’s
stuff. It’s stuff on stuff and the demand is constantly changing. As
soon as you think you’ve identified, customized, trained and
implemented a system to manage it all the oldest kid hits puberty and
the ground under your feet moves again! There’s a lot to keep up with
and the demand isn’t going to stop. The problem arises when we feel
that we must personally meet those needs no matter what. We are
not everyone’s solution.
Rewind about four years ago and I was right there. Unhappy. Not
unhappy with my life in general but there was this undercurrent of
anxiety and guilt that just tagged along. This undercurrent was strong
some days and other days it played the outfield, but it was always
there. What’s really wild is that I knew I was unhappy but I could not,
for the life of me, put my finger on exactly what I was unhappy about.
I was feeling like a victim to life. When you’ve made a practice of
pushing your feelings to the side and telling yourself that things will
be better “later” you run the risk of forgetting what you need. This
activity won’t stop you from needing to deal with that nagging
emotional neglect. There will be a reaction. Trust me. I know.
While my husband and I were dating our Pastor introduced us to a
book by Dr. Henry Cloud. The book is titled Changes That Heal. We
are both intense readers and it happened that I was about to finish a
book and had room to begin reading a new one. I downloaded
Changes That Heal and began reading it immediately. This was one
of the best decisions I could have made and it was also one of the
roughest. Dr. Cloud whipped my emotional hinny from here to the
other side of the world and back again. It was a blood bath and I was
the one bleeding. It would get so intense that I had to stop reading
and not touch the book for a week. I would spend that week just
dealing with it all and recovering from the “emotional surgery”. It hurt
so good!
I realized during this time that I was grieving the loss of so much in
my life. Previously I was a married, home-schooling mom who ran a
business from home, living in a three bedroom town house in a small
sweet bay town and had an awesome community of believing friends.
Now I was a divorcee, single working mom with a failed business,
back in the workforce with kids in public school, living in a one
bedroom apartment (with mice) in a major city almost three hours
from my loving community! I had grieved the obvious stuff like the
loss of my marriage and the “new normal” but what Dr. Cloud’s book
brought up was all the other loss that I hadn’t grieved. All of the
emotions that I had not acknowledged or told myself I had time to
feel. I had experienced so much pain, loss, betrayal and
disappointment all while trying to protect innocent children that I had
stopped myself from actually feeling it all. Well, as they say, those
chickens finally came home to roost. All of that stuff came flooding in
and I was a soggy sight. My then fiancé was probably thinking “What
in the world woman?!” but he was so supportive. He didn’t flinch
when I burst into tears for no apparent reason and didn’t leave the
table when it happened over lunch in a cute little sandwich shop. He’s
amazing like that. This was some serious emotional work and it was
hard but it was the beginning of really dealing with my seeming
inability to set healthy boundaries and my penchant for people
pleasing.
In working on dealing with my people pleasing ways I found that, in
time, I was becoming more and more aware of my internal
environment. If I started to feel bad with no reason or if I started to
feel unexpectedly anxious I was able to stop myself and identify what
was going on. I was also able to reach back into my past and identify
times when I had similar unexpected emotional upheaval. My heart
was telling me that I was way over due in the self-care department
and I needed to stop and get a grip on my life. What I learned later is
that this is actually called a crisis. Can you believe that? It’s true. A
crisis is when the people who should know what to do, don’t know
what to do. It’s just that simple. I realized that I was in and out of
crisis since before the kids were born and some 7 years later I was
still in and out of those same crises. As humans do, I learned to cope
with crisis. I learned how to make things work by over compensating,
enabling, setting zero boundaries, lowering my personal expectations
and avoiding conflict at all cost. I was good at this stuff. I knew how to
cope with the best of them. The only thing was that I was learning to
cope with crisis without accepting that I was causing the crisis.
I was reading my bible one day and saw a scripture that jumped out
at me and hollered “Hey! Pay attention to me!!”
Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for
the Lord rather than for people. Colossians 3:23
“…rather than for people.” Those words just hung in the air and in my
mind like a moment of clarity. I wasn’t supposed to make myself
responsible for other people. I wasn’t supposed to let things digress
into “Danita, Personal Pacifier.”
I took all of those crazy feelings and my hurt heart and prayed for
even more direction. I was dealing with the major issues but it was
now time to deal with the habits that those major issues had inspired.
I knew that this wasn’t going to be a matter of knowing something and
then magically everything was all better. I knew that I needed to
reprogram my mind and my heart. God, in His usual faithful way,
answered my prayer by showing me what was really going on: I had
relinquished my own autonomy and was allowing what I thought other
people wanted to run my life. I did all of this in the name of OPO:
Other People’s Opinion.
I was allowing my life to be ruled by the opinions of others and it had
to stop if I was ever going to be free of the guilt and the sense of
internal suffocation.
What major life issues have you experienced and how have you
adapted? While learning to adapt, what habits have you
developed that need to be reassessed?
~Your Journal Space~
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Chapter 2
Being Mrs. Nice
“If it’s in my power to help, I will.”
The mantra of people pleasers around the world.
In the life of a recovering people pleaser there is no immediate room
for the mantra “If It’s In My Power to Help, I Will”. One day you will be
able to handle this but for now, recovering People Pleasers need to
change the scope of this statement before assimilating it back into
their value system. Until this happens it is best to give “If it’s in my
power to help, I will.” a time-out so things don’t go to the extreme.
A few years ago a friend asked me to take on a position in a very
small non-profit organization that served youth.
If you would like to read the rest of Making Room in Your Bubble: Setting Healthy Boundaries and Recovering From People Pleasing click here. Thank you for hanging out with us!
Love,
Danita
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